Appendage (2023) Movie Review – Predictable body horror fare

Predictable Body Horror Fare

In an early scene of Appendage, Hannah (Hadley Robinson) is working away at her sewing machine, and there’s no time for us to feel nervous for her vulnerable fingers before she actually pricks one. It’s a lackluster choice from director Anna Zlokovic–forgoing preying on our worries of what could happen, and instead cutting the tension short and getting right to the point. Appendage, as a whole, is a very straight-to-the-point horror film. In fact, after Hannah’s pinprick, a grotesque, gravelly-voiced, shit-talking creature sprouts from her side. The scenario is more absurd than horrific, and unfortunately, it sets the tone for the entire movie.

Based on Zlokovic’s short film of the same name, the director’s feature film debut follow’s Robinson’s character through a full-on mental health crisis. While pushing out fashion designs for her demanding boss Cristean (Desmin Borges) with her best friend Esther (Kausar Mohammed), Hannah fails to stave off a plague of intense anxiety. She starts to doubt her own artistic abilities, suspects betrayals from her boyfriend Kaelin (Brandon Mychal Smith) and from Esther, and can’t confide anything to her judgmental mother (Deborah Rennard). All these anxieties manifest in a monstrous creature that grows from Hannah’s birthmark. Hannah discovers support from a few others like her, including divorcee Claudia (Emily Hampshire), but she still despairs of ever having a peaceful existence while her appendage constantly reminds her of everything that’s wrong in her life–and grows stronger as it does so.

Now, I’m someone whose anxiety is centralized in the stomach, where it sometimes sits like a heavy rock, sprouts butterflies, or churns and twists into knots. As a result, I couldn’t help but look on at Appendage, and Hannah’s rather unique symptoms, with a sickening sort of resonance. At first, at least. Too soon, absurdities bombarded the film, bypassing opportunities left and right to convey the real (and often more quiet) tensions and terrors of anxiety in favor of a more obvious approach. There are a few moments that do transpose realistic feelings of anxiety, such as when Hannah subconsciously picks at her cuticles. But those feelings are lost any time the appendage terrorizes the screen, leaving me feeling an awkward dissonance over what kind of horror I was meant to be experiencing.

What I did experience was overwritten, fairly predictable horror fare that at least functioned as a vehicle for some sickening body horror and a heart-warming message about self-care. Although I’d much sooner recommend the Finnish horror film Hatching (also on Hulu!) for its similar tropes, Appendage is no doubt entertaining, in a what-the-fuck-did-I-just-watch sort of way.

You can stream Appendage now on Hulu.

 

Read More: Appendage Ending Explained


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